England's shock victory a tale of courage and effort
Scotland 6 England 13
White out … Scotland's Jim Hamilton brings down the ball. Photo: Reuters
EDINBURGH: Remarkable. Quite remarkable. In a match that England had no right to win, they did just that, condemning Scotland and coach Andy Robinson to the most miserable of inquests. Quite what this says about the state of international rugby, I'm not sure, because by all the indicators England didn't have a sniff.
They lacked experience, they lacked time together and they lacked any sort of clout, but they ignored all of that and produced a performance of real courage and effort. Chris Robshaw, Captain Courageous who drove his team to glory, must believe all his birthdays have come at once.
And let no one say that England didn't deserve this. Yes, Scotland were awful, unable for the umpteenth time to fashion a try from a bucketload of chances, and yes there will be stiffer examinations to come.
England win Calcutta Cup
Alex Corbisiero of England is tackled by Allan Jacobsen. Photo: Getty Images
But England showed glimpses of class and they showed that they have all the heart in the world. This was a victory for bravery and obstinacy as much as anything. It was also a victory for a very nice man, England coach Stuart Lancaster.
Several England men stood out. After a shaky start, Charlie Hodgson came through to tease and taunt. Alex Corbisiero had a mighty game in and around the dark, forbidding areas. The midfield duo of Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell stood firm. And Mouritz Botha and Tom Croft were warriors to their fingertips.
There was nothing remotely constructive about the way either side went about their business in the first period. The lineouts were messy, scrums were not decisive as both teams found it impossible to stitch enough phases together to break down well-organised defences. As a study in skill and technique, it left a lot to be desired.
But it was compelling, principally because the score was always tight and because there was the very real possibility of someone making a mistake to change the match.
The first half ended 6-3 to the Scots, and they just about deserved the advantage because of Chris Cusiter, who fought for every loose ball, and for relative newcomers Ross Rennie and Dave Denton, who caused England defensive problems whenever they got in behind the first tackler.
If Parks's kicking out of hand had been just a little bit better than execrable, Scotland might have worried England even more.
Parks's afternoon went from bad to worse 29 seconds into the second half when his delayed clearance kick was charged down by Hodgson. As Hodgson reacted quickly to touch down, Parks cut a forlorn figure, hands on knees, head staring down into the turf.
It was the try the game needed because both sides realised this was a match on a table for the team that sought adventure and risk.
As the game entered its final and decisive quarter, Scotland cranked up the heat. Ashton did well to snuff out an attack, and then Greig Laidlaw, on for Parks, just failed to touch down after kicking ahead. It went up to the Television Match Official for a decision but Nigel Whitehouse ruled - correctly - that Laidlaw had failed to ground the ball properly.
Scotland came again. Minutes later Rennie broke free only to fail to find Mike Blair screaming up on his left shoulder. Those two minutes are Scotland's problems of a lifetime. With a glut of possession, an increase in tempo, and a prolonged spell in England's 22, they were incapable of making the decisive move. England's defence scrambled remarkably well but Scotland should have turned the contest their way.
And that was the way it finished.
No one quite knows what will happen next. Exciting times lie ahead for England followers.